FBI Increases Reward for Power Grid Attacks

Law enforcers survey an electrical substation in West End following the Dec. 3 attacks on the county’s power grid. John Nagy/The Pilot


Staff Writer

More than two months after two power substations were attacked in Moore County, federal investigators are adding to the pot of reward money for information leading to an arrest.

The FBI Charlotte field office has announced it is now offering up to $25,000 for any information that leads to an arrest in two different North Carolina substation attacks.

The FBI is currently investigating the Dec. 3 attacks in Moore County that left approximately 45,000 Duke Energy customers without power for four days along with a shooting that occurred in Randolph County that damaged an EnergyUnited substation Jan. 17. There was no significant power disruption in the second attack.

“Agents are continuing to work with the Moore County Sheriff’s Office and the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office on the cases,” a news release from the FBI said. “At this time, investigators do not believe the shootings in Moore and Randolph counties are connected.”

Shelley Lynch, a public affairs specialist for the FBI’s Charlotte Division, said that rewards are a standard part of ongoing investigations.

“If we believe a reward may prompt someone to come forward with information, we will offer one,” she said.

A $75,000 reward was posted jointly by the Moore County Sheriff’s Office, the state and county governments days after the attack in December. The reward is for anyone who can provide information “leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible” of the attacks to the West End and Carthage substation sites.

Anyone with information should call the Moore County Sheriff’s Office at 910-947-4444, or contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL FBI or tips.fbi.gov.

“There’s still folks out there that know what’s happening. It’s just a matter of if they are willing to come forth and give us the information,” Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said last month.

The new reward money came shortly before the FBI announced the arrests of two individuals believed to be plotting a similar attack on electrical infrastructure in Maryland.

According to reporting Monday in The New York Times, federal officials arrested two people accused of conspiring to “completely destroy Baltimore” in what they described as a racist plot to demolish the power grid in the predominantly Black city.

Authorities arrested Sarah Clendaniel, 27, of Catonsville, Md., and Brandon Russell, 34, of Orlando, Fla., and say they had planned to inflict “maximum harm” by targeting five facilities operated by Baltimore Gas and Electric, which serves 1.2 million customers in central Maryland, according to a complaint filed in federal court.

Investigators have said, for now, they do not think the two are connected to the attacks in North Carolina or other states. According to officials, Russell is a founding member of a neo-Nazi group called the Atomwaffen Division that discussed targeting electrical and nuclear facilities in Florida in 2017. He was released last August from federal prison after a conviction for bomb making.

“Russell provided instructions and location information,” Thomas J. Sobocinski, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s field office in Baltimore, said at a news conference. “He described attacking the power transformers as the greatest thing somebody can do.”

Clendaniel boasted that she wanted to “completely lay this city to waste,” Sobocinski said, adding that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies disrupted the plot before it could be carried out.

Atomwaffen has been linked to a series of violent episodes. In 2020, federal prosecutors charged five members of the group with engaging in a campaign to intimidate and harass journalists and others, including a member of then-President Donald Trump’s cabinet, a university and a church.

Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or jonathan@thepilot.com.